When children are victims of injuries at the hands of another, the results can be particularly devastating. That child may be facing a lifetime of disability, or perhaps the loss of a dream of one day accomplishing a personal goal because of the injury. Children’s bodies are particularly vulnerable to injury, as their systems are still growing and forming, and proper development of a child’s body can be put at risk when an accident causes a major injury.
Almost any injury sustained by a child is serious. But a physical injury can be seen, treated, and managed. With today’s physical therapy, a child who sustains a physical injury can often overcome disability or restriction with the right care and treatment. And certainly, in today’s society, even those who may suffer from physical disability can still achieve almost anything that they want to.
But brain injuries are much different. Brain injuries—called traumatic brain injuries, or TBI—can be hidden, insidious, and permanent. Unfortunately our medical professionals may not be as prepared to deal with these kinds of injuries as they are physical injuries.
TBIs and How They Happen
A TBI is an injury that is sustained by the brain. A significant impact can cause the brain to rattle in the skull, and in more serious accidents, can cause it to slam against the skull. TBIs are sometimes considered to be synonymous with concussions, and TBIs often do happen when someone has sustained a concussion, but one does not have to be diagnosed with a concussion to sustain a TBI.
Recovery from TBI is less certain than with other physical injuries. Different people can have widely varying patterns and rates of recovery, and some may never fully recover at all.
You do not need to “black out” during an accident to sustain a TBI. In many cases, TBI can not be seen on a diagnostic scan. The effects of TBI may be immediately seen and dramatic, but can also be subtle.
Changes in mood and affect, depression, or loss of memory can be an indicator of TBI. Changes in sleep pattern and attitude can be indicators, as well.
TBIs in Children
These symptoms are often difficult to observe in adults, and often more so in children. The subtle signs of TBI may be hard to see in children, who may not be as communicative, or who may have different ways of expressing anger, frustration or confusion. They also may be difficult to observe when very young children sustain a TBI. Young children have not developed cognitive skills yet, and may not even have a fully defined personality. Thus, finding impairments in behavior or cognitive performance can be difficult, and may not be observed until years after the accident that caused the brain injury.
Symptoms may even be misdiagnosed. A child with behavior problems may be diagnosed with ADD, instead of a TBI. Lack of motor skills may be blamed on simple slower development. Many symptoms, like obsessive compulsive behaviors, spontaneous outbursts, or seeking out stimuli through self-mutilation, can be misdiagnosed as numerous disorders, instead of TBI.
Children also do not have the insight that adults have. They cannot observe that they are not understanding schoolwork as well, or that their temper has gotten worse. A teenager who may have this insight, may not have the willingness to share the problems with family.
The problems can perpetuate. A child who is experiencing difficulty in school because of a TBI, may then suffer self-esteem issues. Low self-esteem may lead to other behavioral problems.
Outside Factors Can Make Things Worse
The problems and symptoms can be compounded by family who may be in denial about the child’s difficulties, or who may be convinced that the problems of TBI will resolve on their own. Parents may be worried about the perceived stigma of bringing their children to mental health professionals.
Even well-meaning parents, because of financial or time problems, may not have the ability to provide the additional attention that a child recovering from TBI may need.
Problems and symptoms can also be propounded by pre-existing medical history. Children with pre-existing disorders that may affect, mood, or learning, can make recovery from TBI even more difficult, and may be even more susceptible to the effects of a TBI.
Biology and Prognosis are Different in Children
The way children experience TBIs is not just in observable symptoms; there is a biological difference as well. The child’s brain can absorb an impact much better than an adult’s can. However, the effects of the injury can be more diffuse.
Recovery of motor skills that are impaired because of a TBI have been found to be more difficult for younger children as well. As a general rule, the younger the child, the slower they were found to recover from TBIs.
Studies have shown an increased likelihood in the development of psychiatric disorders at older ages in children who sustained TBIs when younger. Those same studies also demonstrated that recurrence of TBI is more prevalent in kids who have sustained a TBI. Thus, kids who may get older and want to play sports, or be involved in even minor accidents, may be more prone to TBI simply from having sustained one when younger.
If you have suffered a concussion or brain injury as a result of an accident, do not wait to get legal advice. Make sure that all of your difficulties are recognized by a court. Contact the attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi for a free consultation to discuss your potential injury case.